Friday, November 18, 2011

BIFF Overview

OK, so I saw about 10 film this festival, and they were mostly pretty solid, but nothing that really jumped up and screamed "Love Me!", by which I mean I gave mostly 4 star reviews, a couple of 3 stars and no 5 stars on the festival ballots. I had planned on seeing more, but cheapness won out. So anyway, here's what I saw and what I thought of what I saw.

A new film from Chow Yun-Fat is going to get me excited, but a Chinese comedy s going to make me wary. I liked it though. The basic plot is a robber steals the identity of a governor coming to a new town to rule and make money the easy way, but things get complicated when the the "boss" of the town doesn't want to give up his control. Stuff happens, there's gunplay and explosions and fighting, and it was all pretty well shot. Chow gets to play his double, and reprise his role as Chocolate from "God of Gamblers", not literally, but they're basically the same kind of dim-witted character is what I'm saying. The comedy wasn't too broad, the characters likeable and the actors I thought did a good job, so it wasn't as painful as it could've been. I can't remember if it was lacking something or if there was something bad which stopped me from giving it 5 stars, but from memory I gave it 4.

 Next was a Mystery Movie, and now I can't remember what the name of it was. Ok, I looked it up, it was called "The Boxer's Omen". It was a HK film about a guy who gets on the wrong side of a black magic practicing Thai guy, had an appearance by Bolo Leung as a Thai boxer, had a lot to do with Budhist monks. That's a rather simplified version of the film. It's not a strong recommend from me, though I did enjoy it, but it's too much of that spiritual kung-fu to be truly engrossing. Plenty of weird stuff in it, but didn't thrall me enough.

 Next up was Trailerpalooza + 50 Best Kills, two compilation films made up of trailers for exploitation movies and one mans opinion of roughly 50 of the best kills in cinema. Both were entertaining, but if I had to do it over again, I'm not sure I would. There definitely some films from the trailer one I thought would be interesting to see, but I felt like I'd seen a lot of the best kills ones before. It was maybe less than 50% in the end, but I'm not sure now. Anyway, it was a bit of fun, but not really fulfilling.

 Next up was "Revenge: A Love Story", which I thought was a Japanese film, but I quickly realised it was Chinese. This was maybe the best film I saw at the festival, and the only reason I didn't give it 5 stars is because it's just so grim. It's beautifully shot, really strong performances, but just downbeat. I want to be entertained, and there's just no way I'm leaving the cinema feeling good after watching this. The story is about a couple of simplistic young people who fall in love, and due to some unfortunate circumstances, end up being raped by the cops and one of them going to jail for something he didn't do. When he gets out, he gets revenge. But there's no happy endings for anyone in this film, which is I guess one way to do it, and maybe more realistic, but it's pretty depressing. But like I said, a really good film.

 Then I saw "Cronos", an early film by Guillermo Del Torro. It was ok, but didn't wow me. I can see why it would've made a splash when it came out, but seeing it now, I liked it, but didn't love it. An old due finds a clockwork mechanism which gives immortality to the owner, but makes them need blood to live, so basically a new take on the vampire story. I should've written notes down sooner, because I can't recall why this didn't connect with me so much now. I just think that "Blade 2" is his best work, I guess.

 "Letters From The Big Man" is a bigfoot or sasquatch film. It's told in this new low budget, magic realism aesthetic that seems to be a trend now with genre material. I mean, it's a bigfoot movie with a CIA conspiracy subplot, but it's not shot like you'd expect a bigfoot/CIA conspiracy movie to be shot. I liked it, and was happy to go along with the ride, but mainly because I just get so much pleasure from seeing a guy in a big old sasquatch costume on screen. The cast and script and stuff were fine, but really, for me, the appeal is the creatures, and even if it slow paced, environmental hippie message film, I still liked it.

 "Guilty of Romance" is the Japanese film I got confused with earlier. This tells the story of a woman who marries an uptight novelsist, who runs a strict household and obviously withholds his marital duties from his wife (I'm talking about sex, in case it wasn't obvious). She gets spotted by a model recruiter one day for a photoshoot, and thus begins her downward spiral, but in the end it seems like it was all planned, or at least partially planned, by some prostitute who feels slighted by the lady's husband. I think it stretched things a bit far there, and it's not really the kind of story I prefer to spend my time on, but there was stuff I liked, so it wasn't a waste of time, but not a strong recommend for this one either, mainly for adult content, I guess.

And then these last 3 I saw in one day.
First up, I don't know the title for this one, and I'm not going to look it up, but it was basically a light doco about San Diego Comic-Con. Not much of interest here unless you're part of that crowd already, I suspect. Otherwise, I find it kind of insulting, a little bit, "Ooh, look at these weird people". Well, that's the vibe I got from the audience I saw it with. I enjoyed it, and got caught up in the people's stories, but it was still kind of a shallow experience I think.

 "Troll Hunter" was pretty good. Maybe my favourite of the festival, but only because "Revenge..." was so depressing. This is a fake doco film, popularised by "Blair With Project". We follow a college film crew tracking down a suspected poacher, but discovering far more than they expected. If the title doesn't give it away, I suspect you can't read, so pointing it out in this sentence will be a waste of time, but it's trolls. The effects were good, the cast was solid, with the main troll hunter guy being a real standout. It kind of falls into that faux doco trap of having faux drama amongst the film crew, though it's not over the top, but it does feel like a cliche, but apart from that, I can't really think of any other issues I had with the film. I think endings are hard to do with this kind of film, but it wasn't too bad. Overall, I really liked it. Not sure if I'll bother buying it, but it is coming out on Video, so check it out. 

And lastly, "The Yellow Sea", a Korean film. My main problem with this film was it was way too long. They could've easily lost half an hour from this, and it still would've been alright. Basic story is a Chinese or North Korean (I'm not really sure) guy gets smuggled into South Korea to perform a hit, and while he's there, try find his wife who smuggled in earlier to make money and has stopped communicating with him. And then there's the other Korean gang which complicates things, and the guy who sent him trying to cover his tracks and tie up loose ends, and the cops as well, so everybody is ganging for him and each other and it all becomes a long drawn out mess. I don't want to say the film is a mess, but the situation f=definitely gets messy, as in bloody. Very bloody. BUt the film does get drawn out. I couldn't believe my watch when I finally got out of the cinema nearly two and half hours later. So it was good, but would've been great if it wasn't so damned long.

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